By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest voters had the opportunity to hear from their Toronto Council candidates during a debate which took place on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 11.
The meeting was organized by the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, the West Scarborough Neighbourhood Community Centre and the Scarborough Civic Action Network (SCAN).
The event took place at the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre on Birchmount Road.
In attendance were candidates Lorenzo Berardinetti, Gary Crawford, Parthi Kandavel, Philip Mills, and Kevin Rupasinghe. Candidates Corey David, Sharif Ahmed and Malik Ahmad were not at the meeting.
Before being given the stage to debate each other’s ideas, candidates had a two-minute period to introduce themselves to the guests on location as well as the more than 60 viewers who tuned in via live stream to watch the meeting. Following introductions, a Q&A period began which allowed candidates three minutes to respond. They each also had the opportunity to offer a brief rebuttal each other’s responses.
One of the topics discussed was about the need for a more liveable and affordable city.
Mills was asked how he would improve this growing issue for Scarborough Southwest residents. One of the things he suggested was the advocacy of rent control by his potential council office. He acknowledged that rent control is more of a provincial issue but showed eagerness to lobby for bills that help tackle this problem.
“We’re in a housing crisis,” said Mills. “And it seems the most logical way to get the housing crisis down is to build more houses.”
Crawford took this opportunity to remind people that there is a plan in place to build 40,000 affordable units across Toronto over the next 10 years.
Although Kandavel agreed with the need for a more affordable city, he had issues with the lack of consultation when condos get developed in the community.
All candidates seemed to be basically on the same page when discussing housing affordability.
But the topic was switched to climate by Rupasinghe who believes in climate solutions that also saves people money. He discussed the idea of energy saving programs that both help decelerate the climate crisis while simultaneously leaving extra money in residents’ pockets.
Although candidates agreed on many other issues such as safer bike lanes, the need for an improved transit system, and the revitalization of Kingston Road as Crawford suggested, they expressed opposing views on certain topics.
Berardinetti and Mills, for instance, disagreed about security and safety. Berardinetti passionately advocated for community safety by way of increased policing.
“Everytime I turn on the radio or TV, there’s something happening either in our riding or close to our riding,” said Berardinetti. “Either a shooting or a stabbing. So I would support any community based funding for police projects to bring down crime that has been happening in Scarborough.”
Mills, on the other hand, insisted that crime comes from poor material provisions “which is why I would like to fund less of the police” and instead use the surplus funds for “services that improve our lives on material provisions”.
The most heated dispute on the night happened between Crawford and Kandavel when Crawford’s integrity and will to fight for his constituents was questioned by his opponent. Kandavel, who has served as a Trustee on the Toronto District School Board for Scarborough Southwest, insisted that he is better suited to fight for his community members. But, Crawford took offence to that remark.
“I have served this community for 19 years and will continue to serve this community,” said Crawford. “But when you’re looking at the work that needs to happen in the community—and I take that very seriously—I work incredibly hard as does my staff for the integrity of everyone in this community and for someone to suggest otherwise is not appropriate at all.”
Scarborough Southwest voters have their final chance to cast a ballot at an advance poll today, Friday, Oct. 14. The advance polls in Scarborough Southwest close at 7 p.m. today and are located at at the Birchmount Community Centre, 93 Birchmount Rd.; and the Warden Hilltop Community Centre, 25 Mendelssohn St.
Election Day in Toronto is Monday, Oct. 24.
Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.